Luluc – Sculptor

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Another dense and complex record from the renowned Australian indie-folk duo.

Luluc waste no time on their third album Sculptor. Opening track ‘Spring’ is merely seconds old when it unfolds into a glorious, sprawling piece of descriptive, considered folk. It feels immediately warm and familiar. As if the song has taken you by the hand and led you briskly into the depths of something beautiful.

 

Yet, somehow, you may never feel quite at home in the midst of Luluc’s songs on Sculptor.

For every moment of assured beauty like this, or the nostalgic ‘Cambridge’, there are myriad weird and occasionally terrifying moments that subvert the innocuous veneer of Luluc’s hushed folk.

Zoë Randall’s eloquence is a powerful weapon in the duo’s artillery. Her observations are acute, her reflections not always rosy, and her narratives frequently unpredictable.

We know your name and where you live,’ she sings in ‘Kids’, which ends up becoming rather frightening thanks to the swelling instrumentation of the duo’s other half Steve Hassett and The National’s Aaron Dessner.

In ‘Controversy’, Randall unleashes on Melbourne suburban life. ‘They lacked the grim adventure of true poverty,’ she incants. ‘They had no suffering, because they’d mortgaged this right just to secure a sad acceptance of suburban respectability.’

There’s a fascinating sense of unease in the music as well. The close harmonies of ‘Me and Jasper’ are fractured by a ripping guitar solo from Dinosaur Jr.’s J. Mascis. Conversely, the open-ended avant drumming of The Dirty Three’s Jim White is pulled into line by the duo’s intrinsic cohesion.

This conflict – this undulation between loose and tight, good and evil, wholesome and scary – is vital to Luluc and vital to making Sculptor such a captivating piece of work.

It’s not without its potential setbacks. Randall’s articulacy sets up barriers; the record becomes a far more powerful work when her words are given full attention. So, while it might be tempting to use Sculptor as beautiful, inoffensive background music, relegating it to that position means you’re absorbing just a mere part of the album’s power.

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